The Growing Religiosity of New Atheism

I think religiosity is an intrinsic part of being human and is also perhaps the most unique of human characteristics.  We can get a feel for just how common this trait is by noting the religious behavior of secular atheists, people who are supposed to be non-religious.  Since they deny the existence of God,  some other aspect of life fills that vacuum.  A common avenue is political ideology, where  many secular atheists become extreme, political zealots, viewing their ideology as The One True Way while demonizing all who oppose them.  History shows us how this dynamic was carried it to its logical end in the Soviet Union, where the secular ideology of Communism was forcefully imposed on millions of people.

Today, the New Atheist Movement has made the religious dimension of atheism all the more obvious.  From an intellectual perspective, there is no such thing as good and evil if atheism is true.  Nevertheless, New Atheists are very, very, very comfortable labeling religion as evil.  As Jerry Coyne once wrote, ” Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.”  With their intellect, they deny the existence of evil, but their human nature takes over when describing their perceived enemies.

There is also a distinct puritanism to be found in New Atheism.

The New Atheists view themselves as saviors, thinking that if only they can convert most people to atheism, the world would be a much, much better place.  It is faith in a Better Future that is supposed to be purchased through proselytizing and shaming.   One of their leaders, Peter Boghossian, even wrote a manual to teach followers how to help convert people to atheism.   In fact, each year, New Atheist leaders publish new books.  Even though the books rarely break any new ground, they are bought up religiously by New Atheist  acolytes who apparently think that with each new book on his/her shelf, they are one step closer to Gnutopia. And if all of this was not religious enough, New Atheists have shown themselves more than willing to viciously attack other atheists and agnostics who don’t agree with the militant anti-religious agenda.  Puritanism, plain and obvious for all to see.

Then there is the Great Schism.  Mimicking countless religions before them, the New Atheists bitterly split into two camps because of something that happened in an elevator – a young male atheist asked a young female atheist back to his room late at night.   This event brought into view two contrasting notions of how atheists should live.  One side championed hedonism while the other side championed extreme feminism.     To this day, the two camps still make war with each other, such that people like Sam Harris and PZ Myers, once close allies in the fight against the evils of religion,  and both who claim to be experts with Reason and Evidence, now attack each other on a fairly regular basis.  The only thing that could ever hope to bring the two sides together again would be a Common Enemy who appeared to pose an existential threat.

Finally, we have Sam Harris, whose leadership among the New Atheists is second only to Richard Dawkins.  Harris has spent his life trying to carve out a niche for atheist religiosity.  First, he got many of his followers to buy into the notion that science can be the source of our moral code.  In essence, he claims to have the secular, atheistic version of the Ten Commandments.  Second, he is currently softening up the New Atheists by co-opting the term spirituality and creating a safe space for atheist spirituality.  Such spirituality turns out to be meditation and the consumption of mind-altering drugs.  Harris not only teaches people how to meditate, but he preaches that such practice is the way to Find the Truth.

And that brings us to the most recent event.  Back on Oct 6, 2015, Harris announced that he has become a vegetarian, perhaps a vegan, for moral reasons.   What’s striking here is not only the continual unfolding of Harris as Gnu-ru, but that with this step, Harris is millimeters away from becoming a religious zealot himself. For the vegan community is not only religious, but is cult-like in its religiosity.  

If Harris can make the transformation, and resist the temptation for a steak dinner, I think we might see the next topic for his next book.   Harris is running out of new material to write about and the attempt to convert other atheists to his newly rediscovered veganism might be just the new market for Harris to tap into.  After all, there is already atheistic noise out there about the hypocrisy of the meat-eating atheists. 

The poster-boys and girls of atheism, secularism, science and reason have done wonders for so many domains of public discourse. Whilst they fittingly weigh in on many moral questions not just restricted to religious indoctrination and its impact on human rights, animal rights has so far garnered little attention. However, the great thing about reason is that it is a tool.

Reason does not presuppose its answers in advance, but is rather a process by which conclusions germinate under the light of the best available evidence.

The best available evidence currently shows that eating meat and animal products is bad for animals, our health and the environment. Many of the New-Atheists and their associated colleagues have realised this, they just need to come forth into the light.

Watching the atheist movement evolve before our eyes is actually quite fascinating.  Having thrown off the yoke of Christianity, modern atheism appears to be on a path to develop its own brand of Old Testament religiosity.  Having convinced themselves they are the Champions of Science and Reason, the New Atheists see themselves as history’s chosen people who are currently in a crucial battle with the forces of darkness – the religious.  Better yet are the developing Codes of Conduct reminiscent of Old Testaments laws.  In the area of sexuality, it remains to be seen whether the Code will reflect old fashioned pagan hedonism or the hyper-puritanical standards of the extreme feminists.  I expect the latter to win out, giving rise to some form of legalistic, politically-correct controlled expressions of hedonism.  The whole issue of food is even more interesting, for veganism is clearly a return to morally-based dietary restrictions.  

 

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27 Responses to The Growing Religiosity of New Atheism

  1. John says:

    But doesn’t that mean your argument that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins act inconsistently with their beliefs is destroyed?

    Sam Harris once acknowledged that the issue of eating meat was something he was thinking about and recognising it as something that would have to be upheld if he were consistent with his views,

    But he never decided to become a vegetarian/vegan and you called his inconsistent standards out.

    But now,he decided to behave consistently and became a vegetarian/vegan.

  2. John says:

    Correction:I know I am only talking about Harris here,but somehow I accidentally also wrote ”Richard Dawkins” into it as well.

    Please excuse the inconsistency.

  3. I agree. Having been created in the image of God, mankind emulates God’s attributes through the behavioral desires you mentioned that always come into focus in time. Mankind may express moral outrage against the idea of God without being aware that the existence of a moral code proves the existence of a moral code giver. The new atheist cannot therefore deny God’s existence without proving God’s necessity.

  4. mechanar says:

    very good Post and just confirmed what I already know Faith/religion is essental Part of being Human and therefore any attemps to remove it forever are doomed to fail not to mention that It really sound very autocratic that a group of self elevated man have decided for all of mankind past present and future what has and has not a right to exist in this world.
    So then the obvious answer to bad faith is not no faith but good faith.

  5. Michael says:

    But doesn’t that mean your argument that Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins act inconsistently with their beliefs is destroyed?

    This is the blog entry you have in mind:
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/sam-harris-struggles-too/

    My argument obviously stands with regard to Dawkins, Krauss, and other New Atheist leaders.

    As for Harris, while he has taken the first step, the problem (entailed by his logic) is not resolved by a vegan lifestyle. Harris will next need to come out in favor of a ban on the use of all animals in scientific research. Ironically, Harris would need help put an end to a huge portion of neuroscience research. In essence, he needs to come out as someone who is anti-science.

  6. I am curious. why does it seem that the best insult to atheism that some theists can pose is that they are “religious”? It seems that the best you can say is “you are no better than we are and we aren’t so great”

    Atheists are secular by definition.

  7. Kevin says:

    We obviously don’t consider being religious an insult. We do find it hilarious when anti-theists act religious. It’s like Hollywood actors crying about global warming right before hopping in their private jet to go back to their huge mansion. Sort of takes the wind out of their sails.

    Atheists are not secular by definition, as there are atheistic religions.

  8. The original Mr. X says:

    I think religiosity is an intrinsic part of being human and is also perhaps the most unique of human characteristics.

    Which, I suppose, might go some way towards explaining why the new atheist movement as a whole seems to nasty and mean-spirited: religion is such a universally and distinctively human trait, I daresay one cannot like humanity if one dislikes religion.

    However, the great thing about reason is that it is a tool.

    Funny, I was going to say a similar thing about Richard Dawkins. :p

    @clubschadenfreude:

    Atheists are secular by definition.

    Not necessarily; someone might be an atheist but think having a state religion is good for social cohesion, or something.

  9. Doug says:

    @clubschadenfreude:
    What makes you imagine that theists are intent on insulting atheists. What we get delight from is exposing their intellectual dishonesty. It really is a different thing entirely.

  10. Larry Olson says:

    “From an intellectual perspective, there is no such thing as good and
    evil if atheism is true.”

    What a naive, straw man, troll like comment…. Good and evil are related to scientific nerve ending receptors in the body, i.e. pain. The more harm you cause other people, the more evil you are comitting, hence the whole Earthlings video about factory farming and such movements. i.e. reduce suffering in the world and you reduce evil. It’s objectively cruel and you can prove it using science. Pain can be studied by science, just as light can be studied, particles can be studied, etc. If cutting a carrot or cucumber produces no suffering for the vegetable scientifically then it’s surely okay to cut carrots and cucumbers with a knife, because of no nerve endings. Instead of looking in to the bible to see if it’s okay to cut carrots, we use science, yes. Sounds reasonable.

  11. The original Mr. X says:

    The idea that causing pain is evil isn’t something you can prove using science.

  12. TFBW says:

    I’d like to see him try, though. And I’d also like to see him alter course when someone declares that they are going to rid the world of evil by genetically altering all life forms able to feel pain such that they no longer can do so, or some such. No pain, no evil.

    Actually, no, I tell a lie. That correction wouldn’t interest me at all. Larry is a supremely tedious advocate for atheism, always reaching for the cheapest shots and shabbiest straw men. It’s seagull atheism: he flaps in, makes a lot of noise, craps all over everything, and flaps off again.

  13. Kevin says:

    What in the world is a scientific nerve ending receptor?

  14. Allallt says:

    (1) The equivocation in the opening paragraph is hard to swallow for a number of reasons. The jumps are from atheism to political ideas (although, no mention of which ideas), from political ideas to zealotous, dogmatic political ideology, and from there to Soviet Communism. Not only are some of these jumps unsupported, others are in direct conflict with the ideas of secularism, which includes religious liberty on the individual level.

    (2) As for your criticism of the word “evil”, that seems fair enough. I am very uncomfortable using the word “evil” in objective terms. Although I believe one can tell the difference between something that is morally good and morally bad, I think of “evil” as a strictly emotional word. I’m not alone among atheists in that, but I am also not representative. However, the deeper implication you seem to be making (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that if one is an atheist one cannot tell the difference between good and bad (morally). That, I think, is untrue. I think we can have human discussion on what is good and what is bad and we can have philosophical ideas that inform moral decisions and I think different philosophies can be said to be better or worse than others. The strawman argument that morality doesn’t fall within ‘scientism’ is irrelevant; there is no onus on atheists to be advocates or scientism or ontological materialism (etc).

    (3) I also don’t think the ‘puritan’, anti-theist, ‘Gnu’ Atheist character, which bows to some sort of ‘high priests’ in the pursuit of some mystical utopia, you present is representative. Utopia is a political idea and ‘high priests’ are contrary to many atheists’ underlying values of scepticism and rationality. There is also a different between treating a person as a high priest and incidentally agreeing with someone. I, for one, often disagree with Coyne not just on content but also on presentation. Perhaps you could help me out, though. When I first came to this blog I asked you to define “New Atheism” and I was told by a commenter that it should be clear by context. I still haven’t found it clear. Could you give me a brief explanation and perhaps an evaluation of whether you think I am one.
    It is possible that you are talking in entirely tautological terms: New Atheists are ones that construct (unfounded and implicit) tenets from atheism and treat those religiously. Although that seems clearly your definition to me, from some contexts, the fact it appears you feel you are addressing ‘atheism’ on a large scale at the same time undermines that. New Atheism (as defined by me just now) represents no one I know personally. And a majority of the people I know are atheists (welcome to the UK’s generation Y). If you are talking about New Atheism as I described it, then you are talking about a tiny subset of atheists defined by an entirely irrational relationship to atheism at large.

    (4) The Extreme Feminist Atheism vs Hedonism Atheism is a somewhat misrepresented conflict. The real problem there is perhaps better expressed distinct from atheism, but even if we look at it only within atheism, it is better described as ‘regressive left’ atheists vs progressive atheists (which still leaves a great number of atheists in the void between these views). The regressive leftists are those who think the possibility of causing offence curtails liberties and freedoms. The progressives are those who want to expand liberties to people and societies. The area of conflict is not just in the hyper-sensitive feminism, but also how we discuss the issue of Jihadism and Islamism.

    (5) Sam Harris has explicitly not developed 10 Commandments or anything like it. I say “explicitly” because he, like Hitchens, rejects the idea that morality could even be reduced to ‘commands’ and believes there must be something deeper. The clarity with which I supported Harris in this is waning a little, but I basically still think (philosophically, not scientifically) that morality must relate back to wellbeing in some way.

    (6) I’m struggling with your conception of what a religion is. Nowhere is this more clear to me than when you describe advocating vegetarianism as being a religious move. I don’t see the spiritual or deistic element to this. Not all philosophy is religion. Not all confident people are dogmatic. Not all dogma is religion. There are good environmental, health and ethical reasons to be vegetarian or vegan and pointing that out (especially from the stance of a ‘philosopher’ who wrote a book an ethics) is not “religious”. (Even if it is dogmatic, which is another discussion.)

    (7) I would outright reject sex defined by political correctness, hyper-sensitive regressive feminism and ‘regressive leftism’. I’d much rather sex defined by progressive ideas of consent, security and the appropriateness of sometimes asking people to mind their own damned business.

  15. Kevin says:

    I think we can have human discussion on what is good and what is bad and we can have philosophical ideas that inform moral decisions and I think different philosophies can be said to be better or worse than others.

    I’ll let Michael address the rest, but this sentence reflects a topic I have discussed several times. Assuming the truth of atheism, humans certainly can have discussions on morality. However, given atheism, the problem is that, let’s say you perfectly uphold the values championed by the progressive left (not talking about the negative aspects such as censoring speech one doesn’t like, etc., only the good things like freedom, equality, what have you).

    Let’s say I, on the other hand, am also an atheist but I believe nature itself shows that men and women have different roles, and that it is by nature man’s place to rule over women, thus I support policies that discourage women from things like working, voting, or any other system that gives them a say in society. I believe that we should develop better technology in the biological realm so that we can analyze fetuses for any deviations in superior (by my standards) genetic stock, and abort anyone who might have autism, color blindness, homosexual tendencies, or whatever I come up with. As for the people already in existence with these traits, I believe that all positive speech about them should be made illegal so as to discourage tolerance and acceptance toward such people, and thereby improve the overall human condition. I believe that it is government’s place to strictly enforce moral codes for a just and safe society.

    We get into a discussion online about our different moral codes. I of course find my moral code to be perfectly acceptable, but you no doubt would not. So then, how do we, as atheists, discuss such weighty issues with any more significance than what our favorite color is? Because “reduce suffering” is not more valid than “survival of the fittest” or “the needs of the many” as a baseline starting point for a moral code.

  16. Allallt says:

    Kevin,
    Thank you for your input. Firstly, if you think nature shows man should have dominion over women then you’d have to present the evidence for that link. Stating a genre of evidence, broadly, (i.e. “nature” in this example) and a resulting (seemingly nonsequitur) conclusion should not ear any respect in a rational discussion.
    The discussion would likely centre on issues of compassion, freedom, responsibility, and empathy. People who espouse ideas like the one you emulated would be excluded from the conversation. Not by fiat, but simply by the economy of good ideas. To talk of people valuing “survival of the fittest” or “eugenics” as a society, in general, is to talk of a society very alien to anything I have experienced across Europe or Australasia. I assume, given that it was your example, it is also an alien idea in America.
    Your examples also only work emotively and I have reason to doubt the possibility of any such society. I do find eugenics and survival of the fittest to be very distasteful premises to assert as a basis of ethics. However, if we lived in a world where the consensus really was in favour of these, why would it be wrong? If you can rationally answer that question, then the answer is open to rational discussion; if you can’t, that’s my point. So far as I can see, survival of the fittest means preference to the elite; top 1%. So, short of tyranny (which is the contravention of an open rational discussion) such a premise would not be accepted.
    To talk of a society that, at large, accepts some sort of ‘essentialist’ interpretation of the human body, seeking out and intending to destroy ‘defects’ is not only alien to us, it also isn’t rational. One cannot, especially in the context of evolution, defend that there is any such thing as an ‘essential’ form of a human and therefore cannot rationally identify a defect.

    I think the challenge you present confuses the possibility of dissent with an ill-intending tyranny.

  17. Kevin says:

    Thank you for the response. Most thoughtful one I’ve received when asking this question. I happen to agree with you that my hypothetical values are alien to Western ideals and would be soundly rejected by the vast majority of people in that culture.

    That, however, does not make those values wrong, it just makes them unpopular, or at most counter to the instincts ingrained in most people raised in the West. There are, and have been, plenty of societies in which those espousing modern progressive values would have been tossed in prison or executed. Can you judge them as being “wrong” if you take personal opinion out of the equation?

  18. Kevin says:

    Meant to add, while my two hypothetical foundations for moral systems – survival of the fittest, and needs of the many – possibly/probably would fail to result in less suffering than yours, it is still a non-objective starting point to base a moral system upon. “Suffering” is not objectively bad, despite the fact that almost no one wants to suffer.

  19. Michael says:

    Allallt,

    I’m pressed for time, so I’ll just respond to point (6), since that captures the “news” angle of this blog entry.

    If one is a vegetarian simply because they don’t like meat or animal products, then there would be no religious angle to it. But if one refrains from eating meat for moral reasons, I would point out this is common practice in many religions. What’s more, if the vegetarian considers himself a good person because of his diet and tries to convert others to these morally-based dietary restrictions (even demonizing those who don’t share the same diet), then we have religiosity. This becomes obvious when we look at portions of the vegan community, whose behavior is clearly cult-like.

  20. Dhay says:

    Larry Olson > Good and evil are related to scientific nerve ending receptors in the body, i.e. pain. The more harm you cause other people, the more evil you are comitting, hence the whole Earthlings video about factory farming and such movements. i.e. reduce suffering in the world and you reduce evil.

    Ah, I understand you and will take your words serously. Lions are carnivores and live by killing other creatures (and occasionally lion cubs, too), inflicting much pain and committing much evil. Clearly you judge it would improve the moral landscape markedly if lions were — humanely, of course — annihilated, and made extinct.

    There’s other predators. We should annihilate all these, too, including the domestic cat, that deadly bird-murderer inflicting so much pain and evil. But here a complication arises: cat kill (and inflict pain and evil) rats and mice which eat grain which a painfully and evilly starving little third-world infant so desperately needs to fend off those hunger-pains. How do you weigh up the competing benefits and pains and evils of this one? — using scientific methods, as promised, that is.

    Let’s look at a total herbivore, an elephant: in a few minutes’ walk it can crush or maim thousands of ants, causing damage to the “scientific nerve ending receptors in the body” of each and causing huge amounts — um, how exactly do you measure pain scientifically, especially in an ant, and what is the SI unit of pain (and what is the SI unit of evil) — of pain and evil to the ants; I suppose you might propose training wild elephants to uproot bushes and, like Jain monks, sweep the ground before them to avoid treading on the ants and other insects; but then, what about the rhinos and hippos, which cannot escape the humane extinction policy your must surely implement for them.

    Like cats, elephants have benefits to other creatures: elephants keep the savannah clear as grassland which antelope can graze, staving off their hunger pains; but also depriving monkeys of forests and of the fruit-bearing trees which monkeys could use to stave off the evil of their own hunger-pains.

    It all gets horribly complicated, and a nice, smoothly-rolling moral landscape where we could just look for the nearby highest peak starts to look horribly jagged.

    The moral is, even if some sort of scientific method for, and scale of, the measurement of pain can be or has been developed, it’s all going to bog down in a quagmire of complication. When I think of the size of the Excel speadsheet needed to include the pains of all individuals of all pain-experiencing species for that calculation of the shape of the moral landscape, I baulk.

    But it’s obviously needed if your approach is to supported — you had better make a soon start on producing the first draft. Don’t be too ambitious, experiment with a benefit/pain-accounting spreadsheet for the creatures in or affected by just one square metre of farmland; and if that doesn’t put you off, I’ll be amazed.

  21. FZM says:

    Allallt,

    A couple of odd points struck me, sorry if this might be a bit tangential or off topic.

    Not only are some of these jumps unsupported, others are in direct conflict with the ideas of secularism, which includes religious liberty on the individual level.

    It strikes me that whether these jumps are in direct conflict with the ideas of secularism depends on whose interpretation of ‘secularism’ you are talking about.

    Various influential interpretations of secularism (at least in the previous century) affirmed publicly and in theory a right to religious liberty on the individual level, but in practice this was largely a nominal right empty of real meaning involving total control of religion and religious believers by secular authorities committed to its eradication. As far as I can tell this ‘Soviet style’ interpretation of secularism isn’t without its supporters and adherents nowadays.

    To talk of people valuing “survival of the fittest” or “eugenics” as a society, in general, is to talk of a society very alien to anything I have experienced across Europe or Australasia.

    I agree that this kind of idea is alien at the present time, though within living memory variants of it obviously weren’t and again, societies that may seem alien in various respects to the societies that exist in parts of the Western world do exist. My wife and in laws were all brought up under the Soviet system and consequently hold some views which, while entirely secular, would be surprising or alien to people in the UK.

  22. Allallt says:

    Wow. Lots of replies. Okay…

    @Kevin
    The espousal of Western values will fetch both political and social reactions in some countries. In some cases, this is death. Free speech has resulted in in political and vigilante death. However, this is at odds with my point at the most fundamental level: it is a suppression of open and rational discussion.
    Take the atheists’ favourite example: slavery. I choose slavery because it is a dark part of both of our countries’ past and also a conspicuous part of the Bible. Slavery was justified by asserting that it was the “saving” of “ignorant” black people from “savage” and “barbaric” lands. Slavery was deemed acceptable by an open(ish) conversation. The conversation itself excluded black people, and the conversation was further suppressed by suppressing the rights of black people to education. But, at least, it had a rationale which could point to ideas. It was abolished by open conversation about all the words I put into quotation marks: “saving”, “ignorant”, “savage” and “barbaric”. Those words reflect ideas that open were soon rejected. The rejection of those principles undermined and soon evaporated the defence of slavery and its abolition soon followed (but was slowed by the continued suppression of open discussion).
    I would argue that the common characteristics of both these societies―the slave-keeping and the Western-value-rejecting societies―are tyranny; a suppression of the open rational discussion. Silencing dissenting voices and excluding entire demographics is exactly that. So, on a superficial level I may not be able to say that “slavery” is wrong (although, that’s up for discussion) but I can say that how they defend it is wrong, and having the discussion does lead to abolition.
    I suspect you’ll have to be very careful about how you rebut this claim, if you still disagree. I think the moral progress that has been made since the Old Testament (and Western slavery) is evidence of this exact process. In Biblical terms, God could have outright decreed slavery “an abomination”, but didn’t. I best argument I have heard from theologians―although it is still in need of defence, else it is poorly abductively reasoned―is that God laid the ground work (through Jesus, mostly) for civilisations to discuss for themselves the ethics and morality of slavery. I have my own objections to this, like the number of people who consequently lived in sin for several generations, but is it still the best defence I know of of slavery in the Bible.
    As for the position of “suffering” or wellbeing in the discussion about morality, I’d argue that it is an inherent part of the conversation with humans. People bring in their empathy and compassion. It isn’t necessary for them to, but I think any large population that talks of ethics without bringing in those sorts of concepts is, again, completely alien to human civilisations. By contrast, imagine whether humans did divorce questions of suffering from questions of ethics and, thus, could conclude that something that massively increases their own suffering is ethical. That also seems entirely alien to how people have such a discussion. (To discuss something which could increase the suffering of another group, without allowing or properly considering their input, is tyranny.)

    @Michael
    I still don’t understand the definition of religion that you are using and therefore the criteria of ‘being a religion’ that this consequently meets. You seem to be arguing that all utterances of morality are religion. Else, because some religions advocate dietary restrictions, all advocated dietary restrictions are religious. Could you be clearer for me?
    From a later post, I sense that you may also be asserting that all advocates who act with fervor are religious, and therefore what they advocate is religion. None of the definitions of religion that I can infer from what you’re saying do I agree with. Clarity would be useful.

    @Dhay
    I know you weren’t talking to me, but it is exactly that sort of complex ‘ecosystem approach’ thinking that started divorcing wellbeing from morality, to me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are entirely unrelated, but the 1:1 mapping of wellbeing to morality I am starting to abandon. Does a tree have structures analogous to a nervous system? Can it ‘suffer’? Do ants suffer at all? Are there some species that are immune from the ‘qualia’ of suffering?

    @FZM
    To announce that religious freedom is “affirmed” publicly and is “in theory a right” is a part of secularism. To then suppress and attempt to eradicate the very thing the government just announced is an affirmed right is not secularism. It is not even consistent with its own espousal. For the government to want to eradicate religion is not a secular government, but an anti-religious one. To be secular is to not be connected with religious (or spiritual) matters. Attempts to eradicate religion is a connection to religion.
    If you do some reading about the philosophies of secularism you will see that anything other than a non-interventionist (not oppressing, not promoting, not sanctioning, not funding) approach to religion is not secularism. History does have governments claiming to be secular while definitely not being. Political issues in America often get caught up in this discussion. Soviet Russia claimed to be secular while having extremely harsh political stances on religion. Gambia is currently claiming to be an ‘Islamic Republic’ while having a secular constitution. ‘Soviet Secularism’ is simply a contradiction in terms.
    As for the ethically alien concepts of eugenics and ethical ‘survival of the fittest’, I want to start with explaining why I only mentioned Europe, Australasia and America (with the conspicuous absence of the Middle East and Africa). I do not mean to suggest these areas have had an open discussion and started advocating these things. I was simply stating places I had experience with. With the exception of Egypt, Oman and Turkey, I have no visited Africa or the Middle East.
    As for your wife and in-laws, I don’t know, obviously, if they hold the views they do as a result of open discussion, soviet propaganda or something else. Moreover, it doesn’t matter. The possibility of a dissenting voice is not a problem. Dissenting voices are necessary for a variety of reasons: they are where new or better ideas can come from; they encourage us to be properly critical; they’re a necessary factor in “discussion”. The only question is whether their views would be upheld in a society that was openly given the information and freely allowed to discuss it. By this method, history has been a document of moral progress; there are few (if any) moral questions on which we have gone backwards, on average.

  23. Dhay says:

    Allallt > (6) I’m struggling with your conception of what a religion is.

    What a religion is, is very hard to pin down. Here’s a link to David Bentley Hart’s critique of a Daniel Dennett book, which critique emphasises the difficulties in doing so, and how Dennett fails:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/003-daniel-dennett-hunts-the-snark

  24. @joesw0rld says:

    So atheism is becoming another example of how humans create religion

    Not good news for those who think that their religion is totally not made up.

  25. Kevin says:

    So the existence of alternative explanations means that all are wrong? Interesting.

  26. Allallt says:

    @Kevin
    Is that to me? I don’t see how I said that.

  27. Kevin says:

    Nope that was to Joe

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